The Aviation Corp. of China (AVIC) will begin making parts for the airframe major assemblies of the MA700 turboprop airliner this month, following the transmission of design data to the factories in the past few weeks.

The manufacturer aims to fly the MA700 late in 2019 and gain certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) at the end of 2021, an AVIC program official said. The schedule suggests first delivery will be made in 2022.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW150C engine will power the MA700, which is designed to seat 78 passengers at 79 cm (31 in.) pitch.

To support sales, especially to new airlines, AVIC is offering finance and guidance in setting up operations.

The program is in the detail design phase, having passed its preliminary design review in January 2017. Critical design reviews for 25-26 systems have been done, the official told a conference in Shanghai organized by SAE International. Reviews for the others should be completed by August. 

The company is expecting suppliers to begin delivering systems in October. Integrated system testing will follow. Technical manuals will also be written in the second half of this year.

The various AVIC factories assigned to make airframe major assemblies, such as the fuselage sections and wing boxes, received design data in late May, the official said. Major assemblies for the first aircraft should be completed at the end of 2018. Fabrication of long-lead items began in December, a program source said.

The first aircraft should be rolled out in June 2019, spend the following few months in ground tests—including taxi runs—and fly in November of that year. Pratt & Whitney Canada said a year ago the PW150C was on track for certification at the end of 2019.

“The overall plan is to receive a type certificate from the CAAC at the end of 2021,” the official said.

AVIC said it has orders for 185 MA700s, all announced together in 2015 after a sales promotion meeting with airlines in that year. There will be another such meeting this year, the official said, adding that airlines in the western province Xinjiang were particularly interested. Xinjiang is sparsely populated and, importantly, lacks the high-speed rail lines that present tough competition to regional airliner operations in the areas where most Chinese live.

“For us as a manufacturer, offering a product is not nearly enough,” the program official said. For customers, AVIC is offering financing and help with planning routes and managing safety.

“Regional airlines with limited capabilities may urgently need help from a manufacturer in such areas as route planning and safety management when establishing themselves,” the official said.

The MA700 will be able to serve 95% of Chinese airports, not including the highest, in Tibet. In high temperature or snow, it will be able to use 1,800-m (5,905 ft.) runways.

Bradley Perrett,